Casa Pueblo Visit by Margo Muyres (A'22)

by Chris Burke
Jan 31

Yesterday we traveled to Adjuntas to meet with Alexis Massol González, the founder of Casa Pueblo, and Larissa González Nieves, a graduate student of development at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Colombia who is writing her thesis on the organization. Casa Pueblo began as a movement against the mining operations proposed by the government that would have caused vast ecological and social damage. Today, it continues to support activism and resistance, but with a collaboratively developed vision of the alternative. On an island that imports 85-90% of food and 100% of fossil fuels for energy, Casa Pueblo has made community self-sufficiency and self-government part of its mission. To meet these goals, this organization distributes solar panels to community members and businesses. After Hurricane Maria, Casa Pueblo was one of the only places in the region with power due to their early adoption of solar panels. People flocked to the center to meet their basic energy needs in the face of an insufficient government response. At that time, their solar-powered radio channel never lost power and was able to provide crucial updates and tips. Radio Casa Pueblo WOQI 1020 prides itself as the first community and ecological radio station that “democratizes the radio waves” with programs that serve the people, provide alternative viewpoints from mainstream press, and seek change and sustainable development. Casa Pueblo does not align with political parties or take government funds, which allows them to maintain autonomy and work effectively on a regional level. The organization also maintains its own coffee farm, which contributes to their food and economic sovereignty. In 2012, Casa Pueblo partnered with Keystone XL pipeline activists in a protest at the White House against a US-proposed gas pipeline in Puerto Rico, combining goals of decolonization and environmental protection. Casa Pueblo has constructed other mainland partnerships such as with Amherst College, which is translating Alexis’ book Casa Pueblo Cultiva Esperanzasinto English. Casa Pueblo is carving out a channel towards environmental, social, cultural, and economic resilience on an island dependent on imports and in an economy run by a US-appointed oversight management board.